Oct 7, 2019
Imagine my grief when Arifureta quickly went from the most gloriously awful anime of the year to the worst I’ve seen all year. Barring a few tolerable moments, the more the show went on, the more dreadful the experience became. Even when I thought I grew numb to whatever the show threw at me, it would always find a new way to make the viewing experience worse. I felt betrayed, as did fans when the premiere dropped. Now that this anime has ended, it’s time I get a little payback.
Let’s start with the least awful aspect of the anime, that being the music. The background OST, whenever it's actually present, is either fairly decent or downright awful. A lot of these tracks (inserts included, of which there are four and only one of them works) don’t even fit the scenes they’re put in half the time. Let that put into perspective how low a bar I’ve set for this anime. As for the OP, it’s trash with an obnoxious saxophone and weird autotune, as well as an awful trap beats section right before the chorus. The worst part is that the moody piano and violin combo at the beginning makes the track inviting, like a siren or a succubus luring you into your untimely demise. Barring an admittedly decent insert song in episode 5, my only other compliment to the music is that the ED, “Hajime no Uta” by DracoVirgo is actually pretty good. One could call it a generic sort of soothing ending theme meant to give the viewers a breather after whatever whirlwind any given episode puts them through. On the other hand, with vocals and instrumentals this inviting, I don’t care. It invokes something sweet, almost nostalgic at points. That said, one can only be so positive here given that we are talking about one of the worst anime anyone cares about this year.
Speaking of worst things I’ve seen all year, the visuals in this anime are some of the worst to come out of 2019. The character designs (the better ones, at least) are inoffensive enough but that should not be my highest genuine compliment beyond some of the girls being attractive. Even then, the MC’s design is so ridiculous that it’s almost endearing. Sadly, the insanely bold and bright colors damage even that, especially when you consider that the show has to swap from these characters being barely visible in a cave so dark you can barely see a thing, to bright daylight. The contrast with all this in mind is downright eye-searing, so much so that I often needed to squint to the point of closing my eyes in order for my eyes to stop hurting. When you couple this with how poorly drawn, borderline melted their faces are at times, and how comically the show likes to distort the main character’s face, it all just becomes an aesthetic nightmare. It takes 5 episodes for us to reach a setting where the color palette works to the point where the characters aren’t too dark or bright to look at. Even then it sometimes crosses over into squint territory whenever the lighting remotely increases, and the colors are so much brighter in the side characters that they almost feel too bright in the dark labyrinth. To finally get away from the color and brightness complaints, we have the monster designs. They’re ugly as sin both in 2D and 3D. The 2D animation itself is...there. Don’t expect to see it too much and even then, it feels stilted whenever it is there a lot of the time. There are moments where it’s unbelievable like when Hajime unveils his giant rifle in episode 4 and you can see the wrappings linger and only move once every half second. I am not exaggerating. There are two factors that influence the awkward feel of the 2D animation, and they’re the three most noticeably awful aspects of the production: editing, direction, and CGI.
The CGI is child’s play for any anime fan to pick at. The models and are so bad and jarring that any scene with them automatically looks like shit. Their movements are practically nonexistent as well, just being thrown and dragged around wherever the anime pleases. The worst part is that this Berserk 2016 and Overlord-tier CGI is almost as abundant as the 2D visuals of the show, and if both are done terribly, imagine how horribly they blend together. Actually, by the time we get to the hydra in episode 4, it’s safe to say the CG in this anime is Skelter Heaven tier. The abysmal directing exacerbates the problem, as entire shots and camera movements make absolutely no sense, especially in the OP, which is such a monumental train wreck of horrendous visuals and transitions it’s impossible for me to do it justice. Whenever the show isn’t forcing head-scratchingly bizarre shots, everything is just lifeless. The action has no choreography whatsoever and for some reason, the shots have absolutely no flow to them, especially in the first episode. This is where the editing comes in. Characters are constantly teleporting for no reason and while yes, the MC learns a quick step teleportation power, that’s entirely different from the characters randomly and abruptly being in a completely different location or part of a scene for no particular reason. Characters look one way and other characters, monsters, or objects are moving from somewhere other than where the characters are looking at, causing whiplash as we scramble to piece together what’s going on. Entire scene transitions amount to nothing but a fake-out before the same scene abruptly cuts to flashback or to present day. I don’t even wanna tell you how the show fucks up visual gags with shitty zooms and cheap “animation”. These problems are a constant with the show, and while they do enough damage to the visuals as is, they’re also inherently an issue with presentation. Bad presentation can really damage one’s narrative, as this show proudly demonstrates.
The writing in this so bad on so many levels that we have to tackle it in three different ways. First is how the presentation turns the first episode into an incomprehensible shitshow. Then we have how the presentation turns the entire narrative into a jumbled mess. Lastly, there’s how the writing is generic at best and frankly pathetic at worst. I won’t even come close to hitting everything but there’s more than enough for you to get the gist of these issues several times over. I hope you enjoy my extensive coverage and journey of this hellspawn.
For starters, the main character just assumes someone sabotaged him because one of the magic laser blasts in a volley of magic collided and ended up hitting him cuz it was misfired, and because we (barely) see a guy smirking for a brief second. First off, how in God’s name did the MC even see the guy while being assaulted by bright lights, one of which basically hit him? He couldn’t. On top of that, since he could have only seen the volleys of light, and the visuals communicate that one of them just ran into another and hit him due to that collision making it go off course, how did he not see it as anything other than an accident? Sure, he was on death’s door before becoming the white-haired, gunslinging edgelord we know now so of course he feels resent for his situation and would like to blame someone, but the anime presents it as if he knows exactly what happened. WE barely know what’s going on, which is a problem in and of itself! This is a common problem throughout the show, even when it temporarily stops being borderline impossible to follow...at least until the penultimate episode tries its valiant hand at in medias res storytelling one last time and making time and events impossible to follow. There’s almost no context or connective tissue between scenes in this first arc, and entire episodes throughout.
My condolences to anyone who thought they could get into the franchise with this anime because context is not a concept this show understands. Sure, it presents a ton of flashbacks that technically explain on some level how the MC got to where he is, but we have no context for why he and those who teleported with him are doing what they’re doing, or how many of them got there. We barely even know jack or shit about the most basic aspects of the world or character relationships because the anime doesn’t bother explaining any of that and we’re just hit with contextless, incohesive montages, and sequences of characters fighting in dungeons. The sheer lack of personality beyond the most basic of caricature characterization only worsens the issue. Even worse is the fact that the flashbacks are erratically placed, sometimes appearing after a scene that necessitated the flashback beforehand makes a transition, sometimes without any transitions to speak of and without the scene prior even requiring the flashback in any capacity. Vital pieces of information are either relegated to throwaway lines or downright nonexistent, so it’s not like rewatching a second time or thinking about it more will suddenly illuminate everything for you. Doing so somehow leads to more questions. That, in turn, forces you to assume things and go out of your way to try to figure out where anything is in relation to its environment, which kills any semblance of joy you could have just laughing at how jumbled everything is. This is the premiere of your anime for God’s sake! If you want to start in medias res, you have to do it in a way where things make enough sense by the end of it that it isn’t a disorienting, incoherent mess. Otherwise, you end up with this glorious train wreck, one I wish lasted longer than a single episode.
Immediately after episode 1, the show just becomes this obnoxious, tiresome mess as it swaps between perspectives no one gives a shit about, not even going far to make the action sequences with our now mental protagonist exciting in the least. Hell, he loses all of the hilariously crazy edge he had to him, just becoming a no-nonsense tsundere character who points out predictable tropes in this cliche fantasy land while purposely going in the opposite direction of where he needs to in order to even begin getting home. He fell to the 65th floor and instead of going back up he goes down 50 floors in a 100-floor labyrinth. Soon after you start to question that, he reaches what seems like the 100th floor in order to fight a boss and free a vampire loli caricature before they head down even more floors to the actual 100th floor. If that doesn’t make any sense, don’t worry, none of this does! Hell, even when they answer why he’s going down with him wanting to get stronger, we have to ask...why is he even bothering when all he has/wants to do is leave and have nothing to do with anything? There are other easy contradictions and logic problems to pick at within this whole excursion, but you get the point. Also, the way they cut between this and the scenes of the other characters coming back is dreadful as there’s no cohesion, and again, they barely expand on the important context we need to understand what is going on and why, just dumping more and more lore on us and presenting more abilities that are sometimes inconsistent cuz we need the MC to do something cool, or otherwise seemingly irrelevant to what he should be learning.
Speaking of inconsistent, it takes until episode 3 before the show settles on establishing a concrete personality for our MC-kun, or Hajime, if you will. It didn’t even set one up to be broken in the first place because that would require competent writing. We’ll touch back on that real soon. Episode 4 has an insufferable number of death fake-outs which include a contrived scenario where the main character gets blasted nearly to death and only after the monster trying to kill them fires again several seconds later does his partner put up a force field. Said force field is also inconsistent about attacks getting through it and then the rest of the fight sequence is told out of order for no reason. The pair also arbitrarily kiss multiple times because we need nonsensical faux emotional beats, as if there aren’t enough in this episode. I could go on about the asspulls, inconsistencies, and forced drama for the sake of emotional manipulation, but you get the point.
Pacing is another gigantic issue with this anime. Apart from how badly episode 1 utilizes flashbacks, the show has a dismal time deciding what to show and when. It often skips or montages relevant progression, like Hajime’s journey towards being an “edgelord badass”, or the offscreen training his classmates did after their collective failure in the first episode. We don’t even see how or when Hajime gets everything he needs to complete his character design, as we’re instead forced to assume what happened. The two month time skip in episode 5, the fight the classmates have with the enemies they had trouble with in episode 1, and the aforementioned incoherent ordering of events in the second half of episode 4’s big emotional action sequence serve as further examples of how bad the pacing and storytelling is past the first episode. Nothing feels earned from any emotional standpoint due to both these storytelling reasons and the general lack of decent writing, whether that be the classmates in episode 5 overcoming the CGI monsters that gave everyone hell in episode 1, or any of the big moments in episode 4.
All of this sounds bad enough, but it gets even worse when you understand what this anime is trying to be. It’s a light novel adaptation with intents on providing wish-fulfillment via presenting a dark, brooding, angsty yet (selectively) compassionate main character for angsty teenagers to relate to, all while surrounding him with character archetypes, including tons of waifus. They somehow managed to fuck this up so spectacularly that it actually fails at being just generic and trite and becomes an absolute disaster. I’ve complained about shows that fail to even be generic like The Asterisk War, but that was solely on the writing being so broken that it manages to fuck up the easiest of things and make no-effort plots feel convoluted and nonsensical. Arifureta is so horrendously constructed and presented that it’s actually incomprehensible at times. At best, I can say that this show technically did succeed at creating a bunch of archetypes like the classmates and harem girls our main character, Hajime has to deal with. They still didn’t even succeed at properly establishing, breaking, then revamping our main character. Also, no one is even remotely likable, and their interactions are obnoxious, which seems like a given. The only interesting thing about Hajime and the first girl he gets with is that both of them suffer some kind of abandonment and betrayal issues, but again, both characters are hollow, and nothing is told well so it’s difficult to care. Their lack of chemistry makes the emotional character and relationship moments of episode 4 particularly jarring and laughable. By the time we get the gag of Hajime accidentally clenching Yue's butt in bed, I knew that if they told this story properly, it would still be a disaster. It wouldn’t be as corrosive as it is now, but it would still be a tiresome, badly produced, practically broken mess of a show I’d want nothing to do with. If they stuck to making a hilariously jumbled mess that goes all-in on that “edge factor”, then it would be at least amusing. No one wins when the show fails at going both ways, as if the second arc didn’t make it clear that no one involved is coming out of this ok.
Once the first arc concludes after 5 episodes, the series doesn't exactly get better. While the remainder of the show isn’t as broken as the first half (including this sixth episode), it basically stops trying to set itself apart in any way, shape, or form from its contemporaries minus the one small plot thread that lingers throughout, that thread being Hajime’s bitterness towards those who betrayed him. From here on out, the main duo shuffles between absolute pieces of shit and begrudgingly compliant assholes that do things because they’re strung along by the slowly emerging pieces of Hajime’s harem. Obviously, asshole characters forced to lay off the edge and do something worthwhile don’t have to be intolerable but given how annoying the rest of the harem is and given how broken the existing caricatures are, the experience becomes significantly more corrosive than ever before. The conflict the second harem member introduces at the start of episode 6 gets resolved, and the rest of the episode is just montages and dicking around before the main characters have to leave. Said second member, Shea, is her own level of destructive at first. She’s not only annoying on her own, but she brings out a new level of dickishness within the main duo that makes their early interactions some of the worst I’ve seen in any harem or anime period. The interactions do get better rather quickly given that the very next episode gives Shea a time to shine, so at least that’s one bit of positivity in the midst of this sea of bile. To quickly leave that reprieve, I’ll mention that backstory is also pointlessly shoehorned in as it has no connection to anything. It might be one of the most insufferable backstories I’ve seen since it only exists to hamfistedly reinforce the idea of “the outcasts coming together and not being so alone in this world” and tell us Shea’s goddamn name. It’s almost as soul-crushing as the episode itself whose only purpose is to introduce a new, big-tittied waifu, and to set up a point which our main characters will have to return to before completing four more labyrinths which the previous episode established. This is our end goal for the show, and where even many fans of the source material feel the show has gone to shit. Need I say more?
Actually, I do, so I’ll just go through the second half of the show in a more rapid-fire fashion. This review is overly long as it is, and that’s without devolving into a ton of nitpicks like how Shea arbitrarily has a change of clothes somehow between two scenes early in episode 7. Said episode is probably the best episode, as we actually get to see Shea beating people six ways to Sunday and prove her worth to the team after all the shit everyone and their mother gives her. It actually reminds me that sometimes these characters have the potential to be compelling, even if the blatant fanservice gags feel shoehorned in at times even considering her appearance and purpose. On top of that, the way they get jettisoned out of the second labyrinth (yes they got there already because pacing is not something this anime cares about) is actually pretty amusing. From then onwards, it’s back to getting the Steph treatment for her, as if using the absolute worst character dynamic from No Game No Life but with a character who is actually obnoxious this time makes it better than when the aforementioned 2014 anime did it. Episode 8 is a tedious reunion episode with some of Hajime's peers, albeit not the ones he has any beef with. Outside of the arbitrary bit of moment a tertiary character has with Shea, the only bit of note is Hajime's equally arbitrary lore dump he gives as a reason to why he won't come back with everyone. He doesn't even care about this, stating to the person offering him a guaranteed way home that he just wants to find some maverick keys so he can leave. It would have been more interesting and in character for him to just say that he wants nothing to do with some of his classmates.
Episode 9 has a moment meant to make Hajime give an angry pep talk to someone about life, which is meant to be an emotionally resonant and inspiring moment, except dismal pacing, a lack of time, and a lack of exploration of this side of Hajime renders this scene moot. Tio Klarus (ok, why do the subs not match the MAL or AL names again?) makes her appearance this episode to round out the “I love Mr. Edgelord Man” party. She’s the masochist of the group, which we learn firsthand in the most embarrassing sequence I have dealt with all year. Apart from all the masochism nonsense, her nice design, and the fact that the anime can’t keep her nail size consistent within the first scene she’s in her human form, she’s boring and obnoxious. I’m done with the episodic play by play. You get the point and I refuse to cover any more of this now that we have all of the relevant characters out now, 2/3 into the anime’s runtime. You can already deduce that there’s nothing left to talk about and that it’s yet more obnoxious LN cliche gauntlets and insufferable character interactions from the diet version of the Konosuba cast and friends. There’s a bad guy and then another evil lord to be stopped, and we’re gonna meet Kaori and her female swordsman friend from early in the series again because they love Hajime as well and we need to fully assemble the harem by the end of the series all while getting sidetracked with more side quests and lolis! This review is long enough as it is, and I’ve wasted enough of both your time and mine! Fuck everything and everyone! Time for final thoughts!
The saddest part isn’t even that this is one of the biggest anime of its season. It’s that this show was delayed by a whopping 15 months. Imagine how much worse it could have been if we got to see it in its original state! The fact that the original author stated "Every time I was sent scripts and storyboards for the anime over these past few months, I writhed in pain in my room” back in January of 2018 makes that bizarre, alternate reality all the more tantalizing. Perhaps it could have been less incompetent given how there was a different director and team before the shift. Perhaps it could have been even worse given how bland the art style of the original plans looked. Still, it’s hard not to feel bad for everyone involved, fans included. At the same time, it’s hard not to point and laugh at what a dumpster fire this show is before later hating what it became. What it became is a bland, fugly, shitty isekai with nothing to offer but shock value from seeing blood and gore and a crazy turned boring tsun jerkass with a heart of gold. I’d actually recommend watching Re:Zero at that point, disregarding my disdain towards that show. You might even have a better time with Shield Hero, I dunno. Just don’t watch this, not even for the occasional bright spot it may have. Obviously, the manga and LN readers aren’t happy, and people like me who wanted that ironic entertainment are left just as disappointed. Barring those with Digibro’s specific tastes, it pleases no one but the most accepting of anime fans who just wanna see a gunslinging underdog get a harem. The only remaining exceptions are those who are willing to trudge through anything that has the theme of defying a world that hates them, and those who adore the art of baffling, broken direction. If that doesn’t meet the criteria for “so bad it’s horrible”, I don’t know what will.
I wish this was just a single episode OVA instead so we could have ourselves a modern-day Mars of Destruction. It would probably have even worse reception, but it wouldn’t be this pathetic or worthless, and I wouldn’t feel like a donkey after watching it. Now I’m left angrier at myself for being duped than I am at this piece of shit for promising ironic entertainment in a fantasy subgenre devoid of any kind of entertainment value, and then spitting in my face. I’m angrier about that than I am about the show frequently throwing away or otherwise undercutting the potential it constantly brings up for itself, as unbelievable as the phrase “this show has potential” might seem to many here. The review you’re reading right now is the only reason I finished this humiliating train wreck which has been mildly amusing (dare I say endearing) at best and unbearable at worst. Perhaps this show wanted to make it clear that I’m not allowed to have fun with these types of shows anymore, and that any bright spots like the occasionally decent character moment, are just flukes.
Eh, what can you do? Even Big Order stopped being funny bad at some point.
Written and Edited by: CodeBlazeFate
Proofread by: Peregrine
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